Rod Picott Jumpin’ Hot Club at Live Theatre Newcastle 10 Oct 2019
I’m still suffering from a bit of a ‘block’ when it comes to seeing live music these days; so it takes someone special to get me out of the house on a cold and miserable Thursday night. On the back of a trio of exceptional albums, Rod Picott is one of the few capable of getting me to load up the camera and sharpen my reviewers pencil. Sporting a big ole Epiphone semi-acoustic guitar, 0pening act was Yorkshire Lass Elaine Palmer, who informed us early on that she’s been playing at the Jumpin’ Hot Club for 20 years (yet she looks so darn young!). Obviously I’ve seen her a few times over those years, but there was something a bit ‘special’ about her performance tonight. Her first song Coulda Been Lovers was as sad as you’d expect; but the next song No Fear was a huge surprise as it was full of Post-Punk angst that made it very memorable indeed. This was followed by the dark and brooding Make Believe, in which the guitar played its part by providing a rumbling accompaniment, which was near perfect for such a dank evening. Perhaps she’s mentioned it before, but she spent a lot of her childhood flitting between Yorkshire and Arizona; which came to play in the Country tunes Blackened Heart and Drive By; which had her attacking the gritty end of her guitar’s fret-board. It was quite a performance and goes to show you should always go to see the support act, regardless of how many times you’ve seen them before.
After a very brief break we were called back into the ‘sold out’ hall as Rod was already on stage. (A confirmed Anglophile. he was keen to get back to his friends house to watch the politics show Question Time on BBC1!) With no introduction he eased straight into a very intense version of Getting To Me, during which he screwed his face up everytime he sang the chorus. That’s one of the beauties of watching Rod Picott perform; he really inhabits his songs each and every night. Early on he announced that he was going to concentrate on singing and try to keep the chat to a minimum; which he did ……. but his stories are always insightful and often very funny indeed. This meant some songs were introduced and others from his vast back catalogue came and went with the wind. Of the newer songs Take Home Pay and Welding Burns were both rawer and more passionate than on record, and the man from Maine really dug deep for Workshirts and Turpentine. As a relative newcomer to Rod Picott’s music, I had no idea he had been in a longish relationship and toured the USA with Amanda Shires; but he did and the story behind the delicate ‘break up song’ I Might Be Broken Now was fascinating, as the couple wrote it together as they were breaking up. Fancy that? As was expected Rod included a couple of songs from the new album; and that was no hardship at all with The Folds of Your Dress, the incredibly beautiful Ghost and especially 38 Special and a Hermes Purse were all simply outstanding tonight. As is his won’t Rod asked for requests, but didn’t expect any as ‘You English are so reserved.’ Ha! He was inundated with three mumbles …… which begat my own favourite, Black T-Shirt (but I was too embarrassed to shout for it), Uncle John which was new to me, but made sense following his back story; and a song I mostly know from his occasional writing partner Slaid Cleave’s version …….. Tiger Tom Dixon, who was actually one of Picott’s long lost relatives, but the story in the song was very accurate and astute too. After an obligatory 10 second gap, when he walked off stage counted to three then re-entered the arena Rod gave us another Classic I’d never heard before; the fabulous Mobile Home and another song which sounded all too familiar but I couldn’t quite place it until it was virtually finished ……… it was only Bruce’s Badlands! Which, it has to be said sounded very authentic in Rod Picott’s hands. Thin in the blink of an eye he was behind the merch desk glad-handing, posing for selfies with fans and selling more CD’s than HMV did in 2017!
Cedric Burnside Jumpin’ Hot Club Newcastle Feb 15th 2019
Because of our respective shifts at work I’ve hardly seen Mrs Magpie this week; but still I had to go to see Cedric Burnside at the JHC in the recently re-aligned basement of the Cluny Newcastle. Opening the show where Scott Taylor and Michael Littlefield from The King Bees performing an all too rare acoustic set of Blues standards with a few rarities thrown in for good measure. They opened their set with Sonny Boy Williamson’s Good Gravy and closed it with the great man’s Keep It To Yourself; and in between Scott huffed and puffed his way through 7 different sounding harmonicas and Michael gave the guitarists in the packed room a free lesson in sweet….. no, sublime acoustic guitar playing on songs and tunes from Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Magic Sam and Big Bill Broonzy too. They alternated lead vocals, and it’s fair to say Scott has now ‘grown into’ a charmed voice that belies his young age. With no break to speak of, Cedric Burnside too a minute to tune his acoustic guitar and simply nodded for the houselights to be turned down and away he went with Love Her Til I Die. I’m not aux fait with his music so guessed at the titles of songs; so don’t get mad if I get them wrong; but tonight obviously wasn’t just about hearing his songs, it was about taking part in the ‘experience’ of seeing Cedric Burnside live on stage where he makes the Blues exciting again. “Well! Well! Well!” Can this guy play a guitar? His fingers are lightning fast across and along the strings and he looks like he’s having a spasm as he inhabits many of his songs too. This certainly felt like everything I’d heard about his performances from friends; Burnside is not just charismatic on stage but hypnotic too….. you can’t take your eyes off him; even though for the first few acoustic songs he just sits on a chair. With a big smile of thanks and his catchphrase “Well, well, well!” when the appreciative audience went ballistic as each song ended, Burnside hardly spoke all night, save retelling one of his Dad’s favourite jokes. But we weren’t here for chit-chat, we wanted to hear music and oohhee…. did he deliver! His short solo acoustic set ended with the slow and sultry Feel Like Going Home, on which he gave us some sublime bottleneck guitar solos. Side kick Brian Jay appeared from behind a curtain and strapped on a Les Paul for a ghostly rendition of Hard To Stay Cool, from his latest album of the same name. Then Jay got behind the drums and the night took a completely new direction, starting with a Blues Chant of Voodoo ethnicity and followed that with a song full of staccato guitar and pounding drumming, which actually moved the bass drum 6 or 7 inches and (with hindsight) started the disintegration of the bass pedal! From my vantage point I could see Jay doing quick running repairs on the pedal during the next two songs, a mighty shuffle followed by a sexy and seductive version of Give It To You, which was less than subtle in tone. After this one the duo switched instruments with Cedric taking over on drums, much to his fans delight. *My notes say ‘a very technical drummer with a knockout punch’ on Don’t Leave Me Girl; which proved very apt as the bass drum moved forward again and the drummer actually snapped the pedal, much to his and our amusement. As he tried to fix it Brian Jay watched like a hawk, but regaled us with some mesmerising work on his Les Paul. After a few minutes, Michael Littlefield from the support act mysteriously produced a spare drum pedal that he keeps in his bag for such occasions (eh?) just as Venue manager produced a second pedal from a store cupboard above the stage! A quick adjustment from Cedric and just by making eye contact….. WOOMPH! The duo roared into whatever song it was they were meant to play (Ain’t Gonna Take No Mess?) ; and the drummer took out his frustrations in the only way possible…. boom, bang, pow….. but always on time and in tune. This, dear reader is why Live Music is the way forward; you don’t get this on Spotify! I guess they were originally meant to finish the set at the end of that song; but the ‘band just played on’ for well over half an hour, and way past the curfew; and by this stage I had to put my notepad away and just immerse myself in the magic music that this duo were emitting from the stage a couple of feet away from me. I’ve told my regular readers that I lost my ‘mojo’ over a year ago, and had virtually stopped going to gigs; but tonight Cedric Burnside (and the King Bees lads) revived whatever was lying dormant in my Soul. Two amazing Blues duos ripped ‘a new one’ into what can sometimes be a dusty and reverential genre, in a packed and sweaty basement…… plus there was even 10 or 12 people ‘idiot dancing’ at the front by the end of the evening. …….. what’s not to like?
Jumping Hot Club,
Little Theatre in Gateshead.
20th October 2017
Native of the CBGB’s scene in the 70’s, Willie Nile is still one of the hardest working and exciting performers you will see on the circuit these days, so with his latest album of Bob Dylan songs to promote I was especially intrigued when I saw that tonight’s concert at the quaint Little Theatre was to be solo, acoustic and with ‘stories’.
As I hung around the entrance with the promoter who was nervously checking his watch, Willie Nile and long time bass player Johnny Pisano came running around the corner with only a few minutes to ‘curtain up’…….the service in the restaurant had been ridiculously slow!
So, with only time to pick up their guitars Willie and Johnny scampered onto the stage to huge cheers from the capacity audience, who were oblivious to the drama only seconds before hand.
“1-2-3—–4” and Willie began bashing out some amazing punky chords on his acoustic that led into Seeds of a Revolution, which sounded especially revolutionary when you could hear every word.
As the cheers died down; Willie regaled us with his first story of the evening introducing Rite of Spring. When some musicians ‘name drop’ I raise my eyebrows; but Nile’s tales tonight (and this one was about Roger McGuinn leaving a message on his answerphone) were generally self-depreciating and always believable (I’ve seen the photos of him hanging out with Bruce and His Bobness).
But; as always it’s ‘all about the music’ isn’t it?
With a catalogue stretching back nearly 40 years (and he still looks so very young) filling 90 minutes was never going to be a problem; just what would he select and what would work acoustically? Life on Bleaker St? Tick. The Innocent Ones? Of course – Tick. For a hoary old Punk Rocker Willie Nile certainly has a sensitive side; and that came out in every song tonight.
I sort of already knew the background to the Dylan album; and his renditions of Love Minus Zero, Hard Rain and Positively 4th Street and the accompanying story and video of his Grandson belting it out made tonight extra special indeed (Dylan doesn’t hold his phone to the mic so you can hear a 2 year old sing, now does he?)
As I’m used to seeing Willie in a noisy, sweaty situation so, the absolute highlight of this concert was hearing him sing songs at the piano; and it’s easy to forget that he was a classically trained pianist, and those intricate skills came across on a stunning rendition of Can’t Do Crazy Anymore (Randy Newman mix) alongside a couple of rare outings for Across The River from his 1980 debut album and tonight’s Celtic influenced The Crossing which was apparently originally written for the Gangs of New York film; which I didn’t know, and was yet another lovely story.
With the 10pm curfew looming; Willie revisited the Positively Bob album for an adrenaline fuelled sing-along Rainy Day Woman; which had twenty or more Grandma’s singing at the tops of their voices as they danced in the aisles……which must be a first for this venue.
With the promoter desperately making ‘last song’ signs in the wings; Nile and Pisano cranked up the volume (which is quite some feet for one man and a wooden guitar with his pal playing a bass played through a small amp) for his theme song House of a 1000 Guitars which had everyone on their feet singing along and punching the air.
Then; without looking at the frantic promoter cries of “One more!” were answered with a frantic version of One Guitar, which must have frightened the neighbours; which is surely the purpose of Rock & Roll, regardless of the instruments involved.
Phew; what a night and managed to encapsulate everything I love about LIVE MUSIC!
It had been a long hard week with my day job; culminating with me finishing work at 7.30; driving home, getting changed into my ‘gig clothes;’ having a cheese toastie for my evening meal then driving to Newcastle, arriving just as the delectable Chloe Chadwick (a blonde vision in black leather biker jacket and Lycra jeans was introducing a new song Don’t Be Shy; a slightly more Rootsy/Americana vibe than I had expected; but that was probably due to the inclusion of Mark Bushell’s sublime Dobro playing.
He stayed with that instrument for the next song, Wearing Hearts, too; which had Mrs. Magpie nudging me to say ‘she has a lovely voice.’ Although that is true; she had totally forgot that she saw Chloe last year at the SummerTyne Festival. (An age thing?)
Looking very comfortable in a duo format; Chloe then introduced her new single, Love Will Find a Way. Well; that title and the song itself sums up my attitude to live music; and I heartily recommend you seek it out; if tonight’s sparky duet was anything to go by.
After checking her watch; Chloe introduced the rather lovely Summertime Lovin’ as ‘being from her album; which will be out to coincide with a tour in July.’ Well an album isn’t before time from this young lady; and this song alongside the other new songs I presume; bode very well indeed for that release, when it comes.
Remembering that was in the future; and she still had copies of her current EP to sell; Chloe and Mark closed their set with the toe-tapping Settle Your Heart; from said disc; and within a blink of the eye a queue formed to buy them from the merch desk as Mark cleared the gear away.
Chloe Chadwick; remember the name.
By the time Sam Outlaw and Molly Jensen, fresh from appearing on National TV on Sunday morning, took to the stage the crowd had swelled to near enough 100 fans; who all seemed to have an excited twinkle in their eyes.
With a smile and a tip of his black Stetson; Outlaw started the evening with the beautiful It Might Kill Me from his debut album Angeleno; and with Molly Jenson providing the pedal-steel parts on her exotic looking acoustic guitar to compliment Sam’s sweet drawl; the scene was set for a very memorable night indeed.
The applause and whooping that greeted the final notes was as loud as I’ve heard at this club for a very long time.
Sam thanked the crowd; then introduced the next song by saying “bad relationships make the best Country songs; but I’m in a happy relationship, so my love songs are cheesy,’ and as the opening chords to the harmony drenched I Want To Love Her For a While filtered through the speakers there was a cheer of recognition.
Another long and loud round of applause followed; and again Ghost Town was immediately recognised; and I noted ‘most acts don’t have a song this good to use as an encore; and this was just track #3 tonight.’
Pretty much every song from Angeleno was performed tonight; with the title track itself being outstanding and my own personal favourite, the tongue in cheek Jesus Take Me Home was greeted with even louder whoops and whistles than earlier quite a few people even tried to sing along.
In a night full of great Country music; I reluctantly had to agree with Mrs. Magpie that her favourite song from Angeleno; Who Do You Think You Are? Was probably the ‘best in show’ as the couple’s harmonies were diamond encrusted and when Molly Jenson did a little dance half way through; my knees turned to jelly.
As Sam pointed out; the album was recorded a long, long time ago and he already has enough songs for a new album (cue more whooping and a’ Hollerin) we were treat to three brand new songs, the simple and beautiful Look At You Now, the bittersweet (with the emphasis on sweet) She’s Proving Hard To Get (Rid Of!!) and a contender for ‘song of the night’ I Won’t Stop (Until I Get You In My Arms) which appeared to be a whispered suggestion from an excited Ms. Jenson.
Aha; Molly Jenson. Tonight; and this UK tour was very much Sam Outlaw’s opportunity to shine in the sun; but Molly proved more than just a foil for the LA singer-songwriter; proving intricately skilful on her guitar and her voice…..swoon….her harmonies were delicious in the extreme; but when she was allowed a verse or two to herself; memories of George & Tammy and even Porter & Dolly sprang to mind; and I don’t say that just for effect.
As well as regaling us with his very own songs; Sam and Molly showed what great taste they have too, with the inclusion of two cover versions; the Flying Burritos’ Juanita and Ryan Adams’ Oh My Sweet Carolina which was the ‘I can’t believe it’s not an encore, encore,’ which came after the duo turned their back to the audience as we shouted ‘More’ with Molly Jenson even partially hiding beneath the back drop; as she pretended to leave the stage.
Honestly; this was ‘one of those nights’ that only come along every once in a very long time; and already people are asking the JHC when Sam Outlaw is coming back.
As the night progressed, I had a good look around the room and saw very few regular faces; and the age range was much younger than the JHC’s regular attendees; presumably most of those here had discovered Mr. Outlaw via these very pages. Do you think?).